Edit: Sorry mods this probably should have gone in the 2nd amendment forum
Repeal Second Amendment, Analyst Advises
By Nathan Burchfiel
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
June 12, 2007
(CNSNews.com) - The Second Amendment guarantees the right of an individual to own guns and for that reason should be repealed, according to a legal affairs analyst who opposes gun ownership.
"The Second Amendment is one of the clearest statements of right in the Constitution," Benjamin Wittes, a guest scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution, acknowledged in a discussion Monday. "We've had decades of sort of intellectual gymnastics to try to make those words not mean what they say."
Wittes, who said he has "no particular enthusiasm for the idea of a gun culture," said that rather than try to limit gun ownership through regulation that potentially violates the Second Amendment, opponents of gun ownership should set their sights on repealing the amendment altogether.
"Rather than debating the meaning of the Second Amendment, I think the appropriate debate is whether we want a Second Amendment," Wittes said. He conceded, however, that the political likelihood of getting the amendment repealed is "pretty limited."
Wittes said the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms meant more when it was crafted more than 200 years ago than it does today. Modern society is "much more ambivalent than they [the founders] were about whether gun ownership really is fundamental to liberty," he said.
"One of the things that they believed was that the right of states to organize militias, and therefore individuals to be armed, was necessary to protect the liberty of those states against the federal government," Wittes said. "This is something we don't really believe as a society anymore."
But challenging the Second Amendment on the basis that society's circumstances have changed since the drafting would similarly open up to question all other constitutional rights, according to Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett, who also participated in Monday's discussion.
"The techniques that are used to show that the Second Amendment really doesn't have any contemporary relevance are absolutely available to anybody who wants to show that aspects of the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment have no contemporary relevance," he said.
Citing the Fourth Amendment, which protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," Barnett argued, "Sure it was fine that persons should be secure in their papers and effects back in the old days when there wasn't a danger of terrorism and mass murder."
But advocates of warrantless searches could make an "appeal to changing circumstances," on the basis that the Fourth Amendment is "archaic [and] we don't need it anymore," he added.
Barnett recommended that gun control advocates "not favor methods of interpretation [to criticize the legitimacy of the Second Amendment] that you wouldn't want to put in the hands of political opponents."